Full-backs pose problems
With Romelu Lukaku unavailable for selection, Roberto Martinez’s main attacking outlet is through his advancing full-backs. Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines have established themselves as arguably the best fullback duo in the Premier League, as they quickly transition defence to attack with their surging runs forward.
Everton, however, was sloppy in possession throughout the opening minutes of their FA Cup tie against Swansea. Despite their early goal, and Ross Barkley’s activity between the lines, Martinez’s men struggled in the final third. Wayne Routledge and Roland Lamah quickly closed down the Everton full-backs when they received possession, while Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas were quiet in the opening half.
Nevertheless, with Pienaar and Mirallas drifting infield, space opened up for the fullbacks to get into advanced positions – this is where Everton’s best chances were created. Pienaar drifted into a pocket of space to flick a Sylvain Distin pass into Baines, and the South African international audaciously chipped the Everton left-back’s pass off the crossbar.
Subsequently, Coleman and Mirallas combined, thus leading to Coleman driving towards the byline, and the Everton right-back’s well-weighed ball into the box was smashed light-years over the crossbar. Although Baines’ impact decreased in the second half, Coleman and Mirallas combined on numerous occasions, as they dominated the right-flank.
The duo’s movement on the right created an opening for Barkley to attempt a shot on goal. Afterwards, Coleman drove to the byline on two separate occasions delivering a ball at the far-post to Pienaar, which he nodded inches wide of the post – Mirallas also received an opportunity to increase Everton’s lead but thrashed his shot over the cross-bar.
Despite Baines’ quiet second-half, the left-back coolly slotted a penalty kick past Gerhard Tremmel, which secured Everton’s progression into the last eight of the competition. More so, Everton’s activity in wide-areas exposed Swansea’s makeshift back four.
Individual errors prove costly
Swansea was aiming to extend their unbeaten run under Monk on their travels to Goodison Park. Monk’s approach to the match was logical, and his side nullified Everton’s strengths, but individual mistakes in their own third led to their downfall.
Kyle Bartley’s return to the Swansea XI following his loan spell at Birmingham started poorly, as his defensive error contributed to Lacina Traore’s debut goal. Bartley failed to clear Baines’ free kick, and Traore back heeled Sylvain Distin’s ball towards the six-yard box past Tremmel. Swansea maintained an organized shape –despite conceding space between the lines – as they quickly pressed Everton on the ball, forcing them to play backwards, and their full-backs struggled to assert their dominance in the opening half.
Monk’s men received opportunities in the final third to punish Everton’s shaky back line, but the away side lacked a killer instinct. Alvaro Vasquez was played in free in the first minute, but his reluctance to shoot with his left foot after rounding the goalkeeper, allowed Everton to recover from their mistake. Likewise Lamah constantly surged forward down the left flank, but no Swansea attacker attempted to connect with his deliveries across the six-yard box.
Despite their positive attacking opportunities, the away side’s attempt to record a historic FA Cup triumph halted due to ensuing defensive mistakes. Neil Taylor’s poor back pass towards Tremmel was intercepted by substitute Steven Naismith and the Scottish attacker slotted his shot into the net. Naismith’s impact on the match increased when Ashley Richards committed a clumsy tackle on the Scotsman.
Everton failed to unlock the away side’s backline in the buildup to all three goals, but Swansea’s defensive lapses presented Martinez’s men with goal scoring opportunities, and they pounced.
Traore debut disappointing
Traore is supposed to serve as an astute replacement for the injured Romelu Lukaku, and while his life at Goodison started with a goal, his overall performance was underwhelming.
It’s irrational to believe that the Ivorian will offer an identical physical threat as Lukaku, and Martinez insisted that the on-loan striker has more to his arsenal. “His size will give you the wrong impression of the way he is as a footballer. He is technically very gifted, he has a real understanding of the space and combination play around him and is really quick with his penetrating runs, he [Traore] is a real athlete,” Martinez said.
“All those aspects make us a little bit different because we haven’t got that sort of player with that presence and height. He is a footballer who is going to bring us a lot.”
Traore’s debut resulted in 19 touches – receiving two more touches than Naismith – as he spent long portions of the match anonymous. Everton lacked a focal point, along with a goal-scoring threat in attack, as he didn’t attempt to make runs behind the backline or drop into spaces to receive the ball.
The Ivorian’s debut was poor, and it may take time to adapt to the frenetic pace of the Premier League, but surely Martinez will demand a better performance in future matches – especially with Everton aiming to finish in a European spot.